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A quarter of the season’s complete, who’s a USL Championship Awards candidate?

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 05/14/24, 9:00AM EDT


Running the rule over the leading contenders for the five major awards so far this campaign

The Charleston Battery's Nick Markanich has become the frontrunner for the Championship's Player of the Year award with 12 goals and three assists in his first 10 appearances of the regular season. | Photo courtesy Michael Wiser / Charleston Battery

We’ve completed 10 weeks of the 2024 USL Championship regular season, but in terms of games played this past weekend saw the league reached one-quarter complete of its 408-game slate.

With that in mind, it’s time for the first quarterly assessment of where each race for the five major year-end awards currently stands. I’ve picked a front-runner for each award and three other contenders who’ve made a solid case as well.

Want to chime in? Let us know who you’d take or your write-ins in each category on our social media polls.

Goalkeeper of the Year – Eric Dick, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

There are numerous means nowadays to measure goalkeeping performance. If you’re looking for shutouts, the Charleston Battery’s Adam Grinwis has posted clean sheets in five of 10 appearances and has a 0.70 goals-against average. Reigning award holder Sacramento Republic FC’s Danny Vitiello has a goals-against average of 0.50 and a save percentage of 77.8 percent. Pittsburgh’s Eric Dick has solid numbers in those categories – save percentage of 74.1 percent, four shutouts, 0.88 goals-against average – but among the league’s starters he’s had more to handle than most. As a result, he's put up a -2.99 Goals Prevented mark to this point and gets the nod for now.

Also in contention: Adam Grinwis, Charleston Battery; Danny Vitiello, Sacramento Republic FC; Colin Shutler, Orange County SC

Defender of the Year – Kendall Burks, San Antonio FC

San Antonio FC's Kendall Burks has made an immediate impact for the club's back line, leading the side with 20 interceptions and 40 aerial duels won. | Photo courtesy Darren Abate / San Antonio FC

Especially early in the season, this is always the hardest award to predict. We have the numbers to work with – both raw and analytical – and the knowledge someone from one of the better defensive teams in the league is likely to end up winning in the end. (If I told you Daltyn Knutson from Miami FC was currently the center back with the highest Goals Added mark in the Championship per American Soccer Analysis, what would you say? Because he is.) That brings us to Kendall Burks at San Antonio FC, who leads the Championship with 20 interceptions and 40 aerial duels won, has a team-best +1.68 Goals Added mark among SAFC’s defenders and solid numbers elsewhere. That’s as good a place as any to start for now.

Also in contention: Graham Smith, Charleston Battery; Jack Gurr, Sacramento Republic FC; Junior Etou, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

Coach of the Year – Ben Pirmann, Charleston Battery

We’re banging a well-worn drum here, but what Ben Pirmann has done individually over the past two-plus seasons – leading Memphis 901 FC to a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference in 2022, bringing the Charleston Battery to an Eastern Conference title in 2023, and now starting the 2024 season in Charleston 10 games undefeated – has his individual star rising as fast as any manager that’s been on the sidelines in the Championship era. There are other strong contenders here including last year’s winner Mark Briggs at Sacramento Republic FC, his former assistant Danny Dichio at Detroit City FC, and Louisville City FC’s Danny Cruz, but Pirmann feels like the frontrunner as of now.

Also in contention: Mark Briggs, Sacramento Republic FC; Danny Cruz, Louisville City FC; Danny Dichio, Detroit City FC

Young Player of the Year – Ray Serrano, Louisville City FC

Louisville City FC's Ray Serrano has already equaled his single-season best of four goals while adding three assists in the side's first eight games of the regular season campaign. | Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC

There have been some bright performances this season by U-22 players around the league, but LouCity’s Ray Serrano is ahead of the pack with four goals, three assists and 16 chances created in eight league appearances. The 21-year-old had surpassed 100 Championship appearances prior to the start of this season, but he’s already tied his best single season in goals and is now on course for a career-best campaign as part of one of the serious contenders for the Championship title at the end of the year.

Also in contention: Cameron Dunbar, Orange County SC; Abdellatif Aboukoura, Loudoun United FC; Elijah Wynder, Louisville City FC

Player of the Year – Nick Markanich, Charleston Battery

This might be the easiest decision we have to make a quarter of the way through the season. Not only has Nick Markanich been on fire with 12 goals in 10 league appearances, his 15 goal contributions are almost double that of his closest rival in Louisville City FC’s Wilson Harris on nine (8G+1A). It’s not likely Markanich can keep this pace for the rest of the season, but the target of 14 goals in the next 24 games and a new Championship single-season record? That would certainly appear to be in play for the 24-year-old.

Also in contention: Wilson Harris, Louisville City FC; Manuel Arteaga, Tampa Bay Rowdies; Jorge Hernandez, San Antonio FC

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